The grieving family of U.S. journalist Steven Joel Sotloff, who was beheaded by the militants of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) in a video released Tuesday, released a statement on Wednesday carefully addressing both Western and Arab media outlets. Sotloff family spokesman Barak Barfi spoke on behalf of the family -- in both English and Arabic. Barfi challenged the leader of ISIS to a debate about Islam, ABC News reported.
Sotloff "was no war junkie -- he did not want to be a modern-day Lawrence of Arabia. He merely wanted to give voice to those that have none," Barfi read from the statement to reporters. “Steve was no hero. Like all of us, he was a mere man who tried to find good concealed in a world of darkness. And if it did not exist, he tried to create it.”
Sotloff family: He was no war junkie, wanted to give voice to those who had none. Their story was Steve's story pic.twitter.com/P9rHUgsEXi
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) September 3, 2014
Sotloff is the second U.S. journalist that ISIS beheaded in less than a month. Barfi extended his condolences to the family of earlier victim James Foley.
Barfi also addressed the media in Arabic, speaking directly to Islamic State Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He said that as a brother of Islam, he was speaking in the name of Islam and did not agree with the Caliph's actions.
"Where is the mercy?" he asked the Caliph.
Barfi went on to paint a full picture of who the murdered Sotloff had been. Sotloff liked the Miami Dolphins, junk food and the show "South Park." He loved the Arab world and Muslim people, Barfi said, and wanted to share that with the world.
“Despite his busy schedule,” Barfi said, “he always found time to skype his father.”
“For me personally, I have failed you,” he added. “I will carry this burden until I meet you.”
Sotloff held an Israeli citizenship and was a practicing Jew, according to YNET News. He kept his faith secret from his ISIS captors but YNET cited a source held with him in captivity that said he pretended to be sick in order to fast for Yom Kippur and prayed in the direction of Jerusalem, adjusting his position according to where his captors’ were facing while praying.
The video surfaced online just days after Shirley Sotloff, his mother, made a heartbreaking plea for his safety.
"We've not seen Steven for over a year, and we miss him very much. We want to see him home safe and sound and to hug him,” she said in a recorded statement addressed to Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. "I want what every mother wants: to live to see her children's children."
On Wednesday, President Barak Obama confirmed the video’s authenticity. Vice President Biden said the U.S. would pursue ISIS killers "to the gates of hell until they are brought to justice."